Canada

Groundhog Day forecasts defy stormy outlook

The first of North America's furry forecasters to pop out of his burrow this Groundhog Day did not see his shadow, a harbinger of an early spring.

The first of North America's furry forecasters to pop out of his burrow this Groundhog Day did not see his shadow, a harbinger of an early spring.  

However, the credibility of Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam was stretched somewhat by the severe winter storm that pounded Eastern Canada on Wednesday. 

"I like to think of Sam as a bold predictor," said Theresa Adams, a nature interpreter at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. "He's going against the grain."

Sam emerged into a special enclosure to the sound of bagpipes and the shouts of school children who had come to watch the event. 

"Sam, like usual, came out and greeted the crowd although he did seem a little sleepy."

Environment Canada meteorologist Dave Phillips said the blast of stormy weather that covered Ontario in snow Wednesday is making people doubt that winter is anywhere near over, despite the prediction of groundhog prognosticator Wiarton Willie.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled and roads from Windsor to Barrie are hazardous as a result of blowing snow.

Even Wiarton Willie's organizers had to adjust to the near whiteout conditions, moving the annual event inside a tent for the first time in its 55-year history.

Environment Canada notes it's another six weeks until winter is officially over — despite today's furry prediction.

Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day he'll flee to his burrow, heralding six more weeks of winter, and if he doesn't, it means spring is around the corner.

The origins of the tradition aren't clear, but it's likely related to the fact that Groundhog Day falls midway between the start of winter and the beginning of spring.  

Last year, several of the groundhog forecasters predicted six more weeks of winter before an early spring arrived.

With files from The Associated Press